By Gerald N. Tirozzi, Ph.D.
Visiting Professor, College of Education
Michael Jackson’s iconic moonwalk portrays the illusionary onward movement—while sliding backward—of educational reform being perpetrated by federal, state and local officials on our nation’s educators. The reality is that many of the legislative acts and school board policies under consideration, or enacted, represent giant steps backward in recruiting and retaining a highly competent teacher workforce.
To teach or not to teach is an important and timely question in the continuing national discourse on improving our nation’s schools. This question represents a seminal issue as to the quality of the individuals who will teach America’s children and what level of long-term commitment these individuals will have to the teaching profession.
Regrettably, the recent actions of state legislators, governors and municipal leaders (partly fueled by their obsession to pursue federal grant initiatives, imbedded in misguided programs such as Race to the Top (RTT) and School Improvement Grants (SIG)) have apparently caused them not to consider the deleterious impact on our nation’s teachers.
Avoiding the questions and providing the answers—as to who will teach our nation’s students—are evident in the blatant rush to judgment evidenced by legislative actions, along with ill-conceived school district policies, resulting in:
- Overturning collective bargaining rights
- Depleting health benefits
- Dismantling tenure
- Promoting merit pay
- Removing seniority and job security
Taken collectively, these conditions have largely served as disincentives for individuals to enter the teaching profession or to remain teaching. They have also represented a blatant disregard for the hard work and dedication of our nation’s teaching force.
As someone who has devoted his professional life to public education, I find it enormously frustrating to observe the morale-shattering impact of the various machinations of far-removed legislators and not-very-well-informed school board members to wreak unwarranted and undeserving havoc on teachers.
We need to continually remind legislators and policy makers that teachers are professionals, who on a daily basis provide their expertise to, and love for, our nation’s most important resource: its children. They daily perform magnanimous work in spite of minimal salaries, a lack of appreciation for their efforts and a continuing avalanche of disdain from governmental and corporate leaders.
Their committed efforts are not deserving of the cascades of reform that are threatening to drown them and forever change the landscape and environment of the teaching profession. The individuals who perpetuate such reforms will one day have to answer for their shortsightedness, illogical rush to judgment and the potential dismantling of a proud profession.
There needs to be need a national awakening to the reality that the teacher is the center of the education universe and that the teacher is the most important in-school contributor to student achievement.
More About Gerald:
Dr. Tirozzi was the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) from 1999-2011. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration and Higher Education from Michigan State University. A native of Connecticut, Dr. Tirozzi has an extensive background in the education field and is a nationally recognized leader in education reform. Prior to joining NASSP in March 1999, Dr. Tirozzi held a variety of positions including assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education (1996-1999); professor of educational leadership at the University of Connecticut (1993-1995); president of Wheelock College (1991-1993); commissioner of education in Connecticut (1983-1991); and superintendent of New Haven (CT) Public Schools (1977-1983). Early in his career, he also served as a science teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal and principal.